In The Emotional Brain, Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience at New York University, …
In The Emotional Brain, Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience at New York University, …
Writing a Commencement speech is like writing your eulogy: You have to nail down in 10 minutes or less a succinct message that represents your entire life. It’s best to capture all the sweat and tears, the laughter and sorrow, life’s drama in a few tight, coherent paragraphs.
Having been asked to give one in May to my alma mater, Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, I have been studying Commencement addresses of the pros: J.K. Rowling, Anna Quindlen, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs. And here’s what all of them had in common: suffering.
Yep. The primary theme in each of these essays is that suffering is the rubble on which success is built. I’m sure that you can bypass suffering altogether, but then you’d have a rather boring Commencement speech. I’ve read some of those too.
It’s the First Noble Truth of Buddhism: “Life is suffering.”
I think we’ve all been dissed by a friend at least once in our lifetime, right?
Recently I’ve had two people remove me as a friend on Facebook. Like that feels good. Was it my annoying status updates? The singing video that I uploaded (“A Few of My Favorite Things” … check it out )? I know I was off-key. Oh, the picture of the old lady that I posted and said it was me. You are that old lady? Geez… Sorry.
Frankly I don’t know what’s worse: the e-mails and the phone calls that aren’t returned, or the letter (or really painful conversation) explaining why the friendship is toxic and needs to be terminated. It all feels the same: REJECTION. Like you’re back in the sixth grade again, with bad acne, and the boys want to date your pretty and popular twin sister (that’s when my self-esteem issues started).
At any rate, there are ways you can get closure even when you don’t know why you’ve been dumped. Here are a few I try (every time I’m removed from someone’s friend list on Facebook).
Today’s guest post is by Dr. Olajide Williams, a general neurologist with special interest in stroke. He is Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology at Columbia University. The following story is an excerpt from his book, “Stroke Diaries,” which is a collection of his experiences, both somber and hopeful. I find this piece on Oxford University Press’s blog, which you can get to by clicking here.
Pedro was lying on the bathroom floor next to the toilet bowl. Water was still running from rusty faucet, overflowing the sink, and pooling around his body as he lay limp on wet porcelain tiles. Lucy was standing over him and whining. The young black Labrador retriever had not left her owner’s side since the previous night. It was as if she had predicted it, as if she was responding to some perceptible change in his body, perhaps even a “stroke odor” that her heightened sense of smell allowed her to detect. Lucy had followed him everywhere; she lay awake next to him throughout the night, constantly licking the left side of his body. She rushed after him into the bathroom that morning, before Pedro’s world began to tilt-the visual metamorphosis, tilting up to 180° in second, and developing into a violent vertigo that caused him to slump to the ground, hitting his head against the toilet bowl on the way down.
It was 5:30 a.m. The sun had just begun its ascent above the coastline when Pedro woke up to brush his teeth. And now, hours later, he could not get up off the floor. He could not move his left arm or left leg, and he could not feel Lucy licking his left palm.
Your moods and emotions color the way you see the world, yourself, and your future. Negative mood states, such as anxiety, sadness, and anger, are part of the normal ebb and flow of human emotions. They provide a necessary counterpoint to the joyful and happy occasions of life, and they add depth to the “rich tapestry of human experience.” Of course, that doesn’t make them any more pleasant or easy to get through at the time you’re experiencing them.
We have negative moods and emotions, however, for a reason. They are a way of alerting us that all is not right with our world and that we may need to take some sort of action. Rather than trying to escape these negative feelings — with pills, liquor, or thrills of some sort — we are better off exploring them and trying to get at the cause of our distress so that we can meet it head-on.
One excellent way to explore your negative feelings is through creative outlets. Explorations of negative feelings have been the focus of many creative works throughout the centuries. Examples include Emily Dickinson’s famous poem “There’s a Certain Slant of Light,” playwright Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece Long Day’s Journey into Night, Edvard Munch’s famous Expressionist painting “The Scream,” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor (“Pathétique” ).
You don’t have to be a renowned composer, painter, or playwright to experience the benefits of expressing your emotions creatively. In my new book, Your Creative Brain, I present a number of ways you can transform negative emotion through creative work.
Many of you may have seen the Ted video by …
Most of us circle a few days of the calendar year that we know will be difficult to get through: the anniversary of a death, traumatic event, or even happy occasion. These dates are charged with emotion.
Sometimes we feel trapped by these dates — like there’s nothing we can do to stop them. The approaching date creates a sense of panic and anxiety in many of us, and we can feel out of control. The one benefit from anniversary anxiety is that we can predict it and therefore prepare for it. Here are 8 ways to do just that.
1. Forecast your emotions.
You’ve circled the day. You know it’s coming. Now get honest with yourself about how you might feel on that day. If it’s the anniversary of a death of a loved one, get ready to celebrate that person’s life with joy and sadness. Pull out some photos. Prepare to feel that hollow part in your heart open up once more to the loss you have felt since the death. Allow yourself some space for mourning, even if it’s been 10 years since you’ve separated and everyone tells you that you should be over it.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 40 percent of adults were single in 2009. Researchers have found that the “single stigma” is worst for women in their mid-20′s through mid-30′s. Women 35 and older are more content with their single status and don’t complain of social pressure as much as younger singles.
In between its covers, Michelle presents simple but smart steps for singles to identify their relationship needs and goals, and learns how to pursue healthier, stronger relationships. I have pulled the following suggestions from chapter four, “The Princess in Waiting.”
In her national bestseller “Potatoes Not Prozac,” Kathleen DesMaisons offers a seven-step dietary plan for sugar-sensitive people like me. I’ve tried to implement her suggestions into my diet because, as a recovering drunk and depressive, sugar can throw me into an emotional mess that gets downright ugly.
A diet rich in fiber and protein is crucial to my mental health — but for me, it’s Prozac AND potatoes.
Here’s what DesMaisons proposes:
I’ve always known that I climb out of any pool a lot happier than when I dove in.
Yes, I know any kind of aerobic exercise relieves depression.
For starters, it stimulates brain chemicals that foster the growth of nerve cells; exercise also affects neurotransmitters such as serotonin that influence mood and produces ANP, a stress-reducing hormone, which helps control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety. But swimming, for me, seems to zap a bad mood more efficiently than even running. Swimming a good 3000 meters for me can, in the midst of a depressive cycle, hush the dead thoughts for up to two hours. It’s like taking a Tylenol for a headache! It was with interest, then, that I read an article in “Swimmer” magazine about why, in fact, that’s the case.
Here is the irony in writing a piece about distraction. I told myself not to check my email until the column was done, but I did peak at my Facebook because I was awaiting a response. I saw that I had four new friend requests, so in the process of accepting them, I see that another blogger has referenced one of my posts in a recent blog, so I click over to her site.
Oh, and did I mention that I have Mozart blasting away in my ears so that I can drown out the sound of the podcast the woman in front of me at the coffee shop is playing?
Abraham Lincoln is a powerful mental health hero for me. Whenever I doubt that I can do anything meaningful in this life with a defective brain (and entire nervous system, actually, as well as the hormonal one), I simply pull out Joshua Wolf Shenk’s classic, “Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness.” Or I read the CliffsNotes version: the poignant essay, “Lincoln’s Great Depression” that appeared in “The Atlantic” in October of 2005.
Every time I pick up pages from either the article or the book, I come away with new insights. This time I was intrigued by Lincoln’s faith — and how he read the Book of Job when he needed redirection.
Following I have excerpted the paragraphs from The Atlantic article on Lincoln’s faith, and how he used it to manage his melancholy.